Summary: Our authority for faith and practise is the written Word of God. This becomes the standard by which we conduct our lives.
“As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
The foregoing is the generally accepted view of the Word of God among Baptists. Our lives are constrained by the Word of God. We cannot go beyond what is written in Scripture. By the same token, we dare not neglect that which God has revealed since it is a perfect revelation of the mind of the True and Living God.
Foundational for Baptist faith and practise is the authority of the Bible. Though cognizant of traditions, we do not appeal to tradition for our faith and practise. We look to the written Word of God. It matters little what I may think, or what some other preacher may think, when formulating our faith and practise. We must be guided by the sacred Scriptures, and when there is a question of how we should act or a question of what the will of God may be, we submit to the Word which He has given.
WHAT ARE THE SACRED SCRIPTURES? When the Apostle drew this particular missive to a close, he pleaded with Timothy, the young theologue who pastored the Ephesian Church. “When you come, bring … my scrolls, especially the parchments” [2 TIMOTHY 4:13]. When you come, bring tà biblía málista tàs membránas. Bring tà biblía—the scrolls— málista tàs membránas—especially the parchments. Two words are in view which must occupy our attention— tà biblía and tàs membránas. The words likely refer to copies of the sacred Scriptures which the Apostle wished to have to read in his final days.
The books of the Bible were first written on scrolls made of animal skins, or more commonly, papyrus stalks wetted and beaten to form paper. The pages would be pasted together, forming rolls which were wound around sticks forming a scroll. As you read one column of print, the scroll was rolled onto the leading stick and the following stick would be unwound by one column. It was difficult to carry around the scrolls due to their bulk and due to the extensive library of materials which composed the sacred writings.
Very early in the history of the churches, Christians began to cut the scrolls into strips—one column to each strip. They then bound these strips together at the back, and this strange creation they called a biblíon—a Bible. That is how we came to have what we recognise as modern books—Christians wanted a handy means allowing them to read the sacred writings. The common name for those scrolls, and later for those bound copies of the sacred writings, has come into our language as identifying the Scriptures by the term Bible. This is the Book; this is the Bible.
Therefore, the Apostle asked that Timothy bring the scrolls, but especially [málista] the Apostle wanted the parchments [tàs membránas]. This is a Latin word [membránas] which came into the Greek tongue. Especially important writings, information which would be kept for long periods, were penned onto animal skins which had been scraped until they were smooth. Today, historians would speak of such skins as vellum, but the Greeks borrowed a Latin word— membránas. It is immediately obvious that we obtain our English word membrane from this Latin word.
We are reasonably certain that the Apostle was requesting copies of the Old Testament. In our text, the Apostle refers to these texts as hierà grámmata—“sacred writings.” Later, he will speak of “all Scripture” [pâsa graphā;] as being “breathed out by God” [theòpneustos]. The Scriptures are the sacred writings of the Faith. They are those documents which we have received as being given through the intermediacy of the Spirit of God. We understand the Scriptures to be a perfect revelation of the mind of God.